A Visit to Caine’s Arcade

LOS ANGELES — It’s always a strange feeling when you meet the internet in person. I had this experience recently at ROFLCon, where I met the men behind the Chuck Testa and Hide Yo Kids videos. It’s a bit like encountering a Hollywood star, except that, at least, has happened to almost everyone I know. Meeting an internet sensation, on the other hand, is much less common.

Entrance to Caine's Arcade
The entrance to Caine's Arcade (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

This past weekend, I had the great pleasure of visiting the famed Caine’s Arcade, a young boy’s makeshift cardboard arcade out in East L.A. You might remember it from the viral video and flash mob organized by filmmaker Nirvan Mullick. The video, which has seen some 3 million views and helped raise over $200,000 for a scholarship fund and foundation, told the tale of Caine Monroy, who set up an arcade in his father’s auto shop.

The arcade is located on a quiet street along Cesar Chavez Blvd., but it’s since become a high-traffic spot. I arrived to find kids and adults in line to get a fun pass and try the famous games. Was it worth the wait?  Absolutely. Caine’s Arcade is a joy to behold, proof of the power of DIY making in combination with a well-produced film and social media strategy.

There’s a lesson here for creatives, I think, as they get their work out in the world: tell a compelling story, have a good heart and make a kick-ass promo video. It’s hard to imagine Caine’s story being successful without all of these elements together.

And where was Caine himself? Parked outside, testing a new game. “I’m undefeated,” he declared.  “Three games so far.”

“Imagine that!” we said. The smile on his face seemed bigger than the movies.

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